Editorial: Investigation aside, bombing an Iraqi shrine is a reminder of the brutality of war

This file photo shows the Pentagon in Washington. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2016

Editorial: Investigation aside, bombing an Iraqi shrine is a reminder of the brutality of war

Just like misinformation led to a Saudi-led coalition plane targeting a funeral hall — and ultimately killing Yemeni civilians — earlier this month; yesterday’s airstrike on a Shiite shrine near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk — which has killed 15 women according to AFP — was another tragic reminder of wars, the mistakes that occur in them and how innocent civilians always end up paying the price.
Of course, state-owned Iranian media immediately accused the United States of conducting the strike on the shrine (seemingly without bothering to seek a confirmation from the Pentagon). For its part, Arab News reached out to the US Department of Defense and a spokesperson advised that the matter is still being investigated, adding that they are in the process of finding out whether or not there were any missions by the US-led coalition against Daesh actually flying at the time and place of the above-mentioned strike.
Yet, any well-informed expert on regional affairs will tell you that — apart from the US coalition — there aren’t exactly many options when it comes to the ability of conducting airstrikes in Iraq.
At the same time, one must remember that the US — like Saudi Arabia — subscribes to and respects international treaties. Furthermore, and contrary to Iranian propaganda, it certainly has no interest or intention in targeting mosques, residential areas or funerals.
Now, regardless of the outcome of the Pentagon’s internal investigation, the fact remains that 15 innocent women died in Iraq yesterday. This is truly sad, as any innocent life lost — be it Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Jewish or of any other religion — is a life too many!
It goes without saying that any/all warring nations must continue to do their utmost to avoid civilian causalities; countries that develop weapon systems must continue to enhance their precision technology, or enhance their intelligence gathering to avoid atrocities such as what happened in Kirkuk yesterday.
But most importantly, with only days separating us from the upcoming American elections, all one could hope for is that the next US president gets better advice on the complexities of the Middle East. And that he/she understands that the war — whether physical or ideological — on the likes of Daesh and the equally horrific Iranian-funded militias can’t be won through a remote control, but through close engagement and via a better partnership with long-term and reliable US allies, such as its Arab Gulf allies.


Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 42 min 28 sec ago

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.